Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Rude Awakening

I had a good Spring.  Good showing at Sole of the City 10k, longest distances in years, and finally a "big race" finish at the Wild Half in May.

I had a bad Summer and Fall.  I just haven't had the willpower to make running a priority with the crazy hours I've worked and unlike 2011, I'm not coming off a great Summer.  I don't have that "cushion" of mileage that let me nail my long run even if it was my only run of the week.

So, while my wife was waiting to start her 13.1-mile leg of the NCR Trail Marathon Relay (her 11th half and 4th this year), I bonked on a three mile run that took me over the famed Mason Dixon line.

I will always be there cheering for Chris at the finish, but watching everyone finish made me want to be out there again.

I recall in 2010, when I ran the last leg of a marathon relay among people who were at miles 19-26.2 and feeling better than me.  It was just a bad day, but it made me realize I needed to train harder to run the half marathon that I was signed up for a month from them (I ended up w/a PR) and it made me really consider a full marathon for the first time. It was a rude awakening, and so was today.  Time to join a gym. Time to get out there after work, even if it's just a mile or two.  Time to push the "new" legs to the limit and see what they've got.

Time to be the runner I was before.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Eye of the Tiger

I've spent 11 years of my careers at one of the leading sales effectiveness consulting companies in the world; a small company with a big impact in its marketplace and a highly-skilled team of which I am proud to be a part.  For most of my career,  I have been involved in development of customized training programs for our clients, but about a year ago, I moved into a specialized sales support role.

This week was my company's second national sales meeting of the year, and I came to it feeling like I needed to prove myself.  In our previous national sales meeting, in Boca Raton in January, I had been responsible for a portion of the meeting that, to put it mildly, was not well-received. I had written a series of training activities for our own sales force that very accurately mirrored their real-life client situations, but were judged to be very similar in focus to previous years' activities and not a good use of time.

At this Summers' meeting, I was asked to co-deliver a presentation introducing four new solutions. Although I have built credibility through my client and internal work, I felt like it was important for me to make a good presentation, especially with our new CEO; my new supervisor; a previous supervisor who has been a trusted mentor to me for many years; and of course our whole sales force present.

My problem?  Although I collaborate extensively with clients over the phone and less frequently in person but enough to be very confident, but I had somehow never had to deliver a PowerPoint presentation to a live audience, despite being almost 40 years old and having worked in the sales performance consulting world for 11 years with a 5-year "break" in the middle of that in knowledge management and sales support at a very large management and technology consulting firm, and I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone.

I had a 9:00am presentation, the second of the day, and so I opened with a few jokes -- wrapped within a brief introduction of myself and my career for the newer executives and sales reps -- to warm up the room and diffuse some of my own nervousness.  I'll be honest, I brought the house down.  As I moved into the informative portion of presentation, I could definitely feel some nervousness returning, but I think I did well enough and I got a lot of positive feedback.  It's definitely something that I'm happy to have gotten through, and it will be less scary next time, but I know there's some for improvement:

1. I prepared my speakers' notes well in advance, but I wish that I had taken some time to practice in front of the room I would be presenting in.  I'm not sure if that would have been possible this time or not.

2. I need to make my slides less wordy, so that I can look to them to briefly remind myself of my place if I need to, but not have to either "wing it" in how I summarize or look at my notes (which I had on my Kindle) as much as I did.

3.  I had my speakers notes on my Kindle, as mentioned above, thinking I'd look a little cooler up there with a tablet rather than printed notes.  I think old-school note cards would have been a better option than either.

A friend gave me some delivery skills pointers that I think will help me do a better job next time in calming down my body language to both appear and help myself feel less nervous, but I think it was really good for a first timer.  The positive is that I felt exactly like I did when I was a 24 or 25 year-old junior consultant on needs assessment calls with clients.  This is now a situation where I'm completely comfortable and confident, and I know I can get there in my presentation skills as well.

And, last but not least, running.  I've not done well at getting enough miles in the July and August heat, but now that summer is winding down, it's time to get serious again.  I had a very good four-miler on Saturday, and I ran 3 miles on Tuesday morning (on the hotel gym treadmill due to pouring rain) and three miles yesterday with a coworker in downtown Philadelphia, heading from our Center City hotel down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum and back.

Of course we ran up the Art Museum steps.  Adrian!!!!!!!!!!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaadrian!







Saturday, July 18, 2015

Death From Above

We got Domo a cat tree.  We're not sure if it was a good idea, yet.


I, for one, welcome our new feline overlord.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Two Flags

After spending a lot of time over the past week reading, hearing, and arguing about this flag:


I'm glad it's this flag that flies victorious today. 


There's still lots of inequality in this country, but this is a step forward, and years from now, when society hasn't collapsed because of same-sex marriage, people will look back on this day and wonder why it took so long. Unless society collapses because of something else, probably cats, in the meantime.

As for that other flag, give me two beers, a sleepy orange kitten, my favorite Orioles hat, and a computer with MS Paint and I can make a "Southern Pride" flag that's NOT associated with an armed insurrection against the United States of America.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Just Because...

It's 10:00 at night.


The temperature has dropped into the 50s.


The Orioles stink again.

And there are races to train for.

So I found the hilliest three miles I could in Manchester and Mt. Wolf, and I ran them.

And it was great.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Wild Half, Wildwoods NJ

I'm having trouble putting into words my experiences at the 2015 Wild Half Marathon (but let me write a long, rambling blog post about it, nonetheless), because it's an accomplishment that still feels like a setback.  The accomplishment is that I finished my first half marathon since 2010, marking a significant step forward in my often-derailed comeback; and the setback is how I felt during the race, which I was clearly not as ready for as I had thought that I was.

Pre-race
Chris and I arrived in Wildwood on Friday afternoon, going from our hotel, the Beach Bungalow at the Blue Palms, to the Adventure Pier in time for packet pickup.  We then went for dinner at Capt'n Jack's Island Grille, on the Boardwalk, which featured one of the boardwalk's few liquor licenses, excellent fries, and good burgers and sandwiches.  After dinner, Chris and I retired rather quickly to our room, exhausted from the long travel day and in bed by 9:30.

We slept in till about 10:30 on Saturday, had breakfast (muffins that we had packed to save money) in our room, and then hit the boardwalk.  We did some shopping, picking up a few Christmas ornaments; had a small lunch at Capt'n Jack's again; and played miniature golf (a rare win for Chris) before heading back to our rooms to relax for a while before heading out to an early dinner with some new friends at Little Italy.  After a delicious dinner, Chris and I headed to the Old City Pub for a single pre-race beer, one of our longstanding race traditions, and then back to the room to get our race gear ready and turn in early.


I find the laying out of the gear the night before to be very soothing.
Race Day
Race day dawned warm and extremely humid, consistent with the weather forecasts.  We knew at that time that this race would be a struggle and not much fun. It didn't help that the bed in our room was very firm, and so neither of us had slept especially well and Chris' back (with her two herniated disks) was quite sore.


Ready for the race?  Not as much as I thought.
Ready to make dumb pre-race faces?  Of course! 

Still, we were as ready as we could be, and we kept to our Jeff Galloway-inspired plan of half-mile run intervals with a minute of walking in between, as the course went south on Ocean Avenue into Wildwood Crest (the southern part of Wildwood) before turning and heading back north on the Wildwood Crest bike path and the entire length of the Wildwood boardwalk.  We were hot, it was disgustingly humid, but we felt relatively ok and were sticking to plan. 

At about the four-mile mark, we left the boardwalk and continued in the same direction up JFK Beach Drive (I didn't know any of these street names at the time, I found a map with mile markers here) before making a series of turns that took the course in a more due-northerly direction through North Wildwood.

After the sixth mile, I felt that the course became more difficult, as we crossed a bridge over Gateway Sound and then just after the mile 7 marker another bridge taking us out to Mosquito Island.  It's really called Nummy Island, but I think my description of this swampy landmass is more apt.  During this stretch of the race, we began to struggle more and more with pain:  Chris' back and hips, and my right knee, which was very sore on the outside.  We made the turn shortly before completing 8 miles, and headed back over those bridges, walking the inclines at this point, my right knee and Chris' back and hips hurting badly at this point.

We made it to mile 10, back in North Wildwood, at which point we were walking more than running.  Every mile seemed longer than the next, until we were back on the boardwalk with a little over a mile to go.  At Garfield Ave, we turned off the boardwalk and then made a left on Ocean toward the finish.  The misery had ended.

The positives:  We made it.  The comeback continues.  No compartment syndrome symptoms.

The negatives:  The race just didn't go how we hoped it would. A possibly new injury or recurrence of ITBS.

I was internally kicking myself (with my non-sore leg!) through the last few miles of the race, but after further reflection, I think the positives clearly outweigh the negatives.  We both know that we rushed our training for this race, and I know that while I do my stretching and strength exercises after every run, I have to be more consistent in doing them on my "off" days (my knee injury felt to me like the return of the ITBS that I experienced in 2011.  I know how to manage this), and, to not lose sight of the big picture:  this was the longest distanced I'd completed in almost four years and my longest time out on a course since the Philadelphia Marathon that same year.  As recently as February, I didn't think a half marathon was something I could train for anymore, and it was GREAT to after almost four years to finally be a full participant in a "big" race and not just a spectator.  I am proud of Chris and myself for pushing through pain, in conditions we both despise running in, to finish the race, and I am thankful for her for pacing me (and putting up with me) during such a long race in which I didn't feel good.  Our accomplishment is not taken away by walking more than we wanted or by a sore knee or aching back.

But, I can see that my 10-miler of two weeks ago gave me confidence that was not warranted.  I was not prepared to run a long distance in such hot, humid conditions, and it showed.  I need to train more methodically and train in the heat, I need to lose weight, and I need to get in more l0+ mile runs to determine whether my knee is ok.  My plan going forward is to take it a bit easy with running the next few weeks, which are insanely busy, but to try to get at least one double-digit distance run in during each of the next 5 months with shorter runs on weekdays, whether or not I actually do a half marathon in the Fall.  I think that if I can do this and the legs are feeling good, that this would prepare me to train up to make an attempt at the Shamrock Marathon in March 2016, and that if the legs don't feel good, it would help me to figure out if the current knee issue is really a problem, and/or if compartment syndrome is truly addressed.  For what it's worth, my knee felt dramatically better the next day.

My quest for a revenge marathon took a significant step forward with this finish, but there is still a long way to go.


Despite a challenging race, the comeback continues!

Race Review.
I'm not sure if I would run this one again, just because of the likelihood of having to run it in the warm, humid conditions that I despise.  That said, I think Morey's Piers, CGI Racing, and the Wildwood Community did a great job with this event.  The course was clearly marked; the boardwalk was at least partially closed to pedestrians, giving runners a clear path; there were ample water stations with unfailingly friendly volunteers; and the experience at the finish line was very positive (no running out of medals or food, beer garden still open).  Wildwood is a fun destination and the race entry, which includes admission to the Morey's Piers amusement parks, is a good value. I'm sure this event was established as a way to introduce more people to the Wildwood area and all the fun it has to offer.   It definitely did that, and I will have to write in more detail in another post about the fun places we found to eat. Everything that the organizers could control, they did an excellent job with.  I likely would have had a much more positive experience in the race itself if I had been in the condition I was in 2011, when I ran longer distances in warm, humid conditions several times a month.  That's not in any way the race organizers' fault, of course!

If I could change one thing, I would add an expo or some merchandise.  This was my first "big race" since 2011, and I would have liked to have been able to buy a hat or windbreaker.  A friend said that there had been a small expo in a previous year, and theorized there was none this year because another organization had rented the convention center.  For the record, no expo was promised in ANY of the promotional materials or the event's website.  I'd probably also move the event to April, when cooler weather is a possibility, but in this case that would put this event up against several other big regional races and would mean, I suspect, that businesses on the boardwalk would be almost completely closed.  Again, I don't want my own personal weather bias to detract from my feelings that this was a very well-organized, well-run event.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wild Half Marathon

Forgotten empires,
Lost victories long past.
Every time I bloomed again,
I thought it was the last.
Then something crazy happens
and BOOM!...I'm doing the victory dance.
We came...we came...we came through blood and fire.
-Van Halen, "Blood and Fire"

Friday, May 15, 2015

One Year Ago...

One year ago, I was about to be rolled back to the operating room for bilateral fasciatomy surgery to alleviate my exertional compartment syndrome symptoms.

On Sunday, I'm going to run a half marathon. It's going to be hot, humid, and maybe even raining.  But this time, I am going to appreciate every mile.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Business Trippin'

Two weeks ago, I went on a five-day business trip to the Denver area.  I am quite a bit behind in my blogging, but I wanted to write about it before it fell completely out of mind.  It was definitely a business trip, with no time for sightseeing or fun. And business went well, and I would like to think I had something to do with that.  

I do try to keep myself entertained a little, though, and one of the ways I do that is to always bring my running gear and try to find a place to get out for a few miles.  Luckily, despite Lone Tree, CO being business parks, retail, and suburbs as far as the could see, I found a nice place to run very close to my hotel. 



The Willow Creek Trail, maintained by South Suburban Parks and recreation, winds along Willow Creek (duh) through parks, developments, abd some corporate parks to provide a safe, paved, pleasant place to run.  In many places, underpasses keep runners or bikers away from traffic.  The 2.5 mile portion of this trail I ran out and back for my five-miler was somewhat hilly, but no worse than I would find in PA.  I DEFINITELY felt the altitude difference, feeling much more fatigued on the way back, despite pleasant temperatures and an easy pace.  I only was able to get out once, but I am thankful to have found a nice place for a run if business takes me back.

I also try to sample some local brews when I am a business trip. One per day, mind you. This is not a vacation!  This was the best new one I tried. 


I also like to send my wife #businessporn. It is not really porn, unless my wife really does find selfies of an unimpressive male specimen in business clothes, accompanied by captions such as "Is this a business meeting...or a sexy party?" or "Your new issue of Businessman Magazine just arrived" to be exciting.  I suspect that she does not.  But I work from home most of the time, usually in shorts and a t-shirt,  so even at almost 40 it feels like I am playing dress up.  I'm just playing it VERY well.

 
Yeah, right.

The business trip consisted of three days of meetings and then, on Friday, a half day of debrief and action planning.  I left that last meeting feeling that I had businessed very well and texted my wife and a few work friends about how gangster I was.  I guess I was a little too cool for the Denver airport, because, after I passed through the full body scanner, security had me wait so they could give me a pass with the metal detecting wand. As I see my laptop, shoes, and Business Guy bag, with all my favorite in-flight electronic devices in it, sitting mournfully at the end of the conveyor belt, I was filled with a righteous indignation as the guy in front of me removed the 200 things he had in his pockets (Read the signs, people! ) one item at a time.  I will say the Rock Bottom Brewery location at the Denver Airport before my flight home was a most welcome site.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Screw It. I'm Calling it a Comeback, Now

The last time I am certain that I ran 8 or more miles was December 2011, and I think that this was my longest run since a seven-miler in Negril, Jamaica at the end of that same month.  The scenery of Mt. Wolf was not as nice, but the temperature was a bit more Brian-friendly.
It's on.  I am going to finish the Wild Half in three weeks, and I will probably be an emotional wreck afterward.  But that's ok.
 
Thanks to Chris for pacing me through this one. I am going try one more long run of 8-10 miles and then   a shorter taper run the weekend before the race.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Sole of the City 10K

I guess the Sole of the City 10K, held every April since 2012,  has become an annual tradition for my wife and I.  We've run each race since its inception; in 2012 we did very well, she PR'd (part of a ridiculous string of consecutive PRs of various distances) and I finished just under an hour.  Despite our participation in every Sole of the City 10K, I was very determined before the start of the race that we would never run this one again.  At least I'd picked up our packets the night before, so we didn't have to take stuff back to the car and then walk back to McHenry Row.

You see, the Sole of the City 10K is a logistical nightmare for someone coming from as far as York.  The race begins at the McHenry Row shopping and residential complex in Baltimore's Locust Point neighborhood, near Fort McHenry and the Baltimore cruise terminal. Knowing that parking for this race is a nightmare, because the McHenry Row tenants (understandably) don't want race traffic parked in their garages, Chris and I were determined to get down to the race an hour early.  We tried parking in the Phillips Seafood lot next McHenry row, heading behind the building where the parking attendant indicated.  Already, people were leaving this lot because it was full.  We then parked in an empty space in Phillips front lot, unable to believe our good fortune, only to be told that this was employee parking.  We ended up parking quite a few blocks away in an Under Armour lot.  It honestly wasn't that far, but I was so frustrated at that point, that I determined that this would be our last Sole of the City.

But then the race happened.

The gun went off, and I quickly remembered what I like about this race:  Its unique course around downtown Baltimore.  Don't get me wrong, lots of races run down Key Highway and back, and Key Highway is part of this race, but also gets over to Fells Point and Harbor East, which aren't part of the Kelly Shamrock 5K, or the Kids Peace Orioles Trick or Trot 5K, or (I'm told) the Baltimore Women's Classic.  The course has been changed the past two years from the first two, when it was a pretty flat loop first around Inner Harbor and then through the Federal Hill area, making for a fast first half of the race and a tough second.  Now, I think it is probably equally hilly the whole way through, although the fifth mile is mostly around the Inner Harbor and is quite flat.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  In sum, think the new course is nice.

And, despite the heat, I felt great.  It was in the mid 60s at race time, which felt very warm to me.  I'd run 6.2 the previous weekend when it was in the 40s.  This was HOT, and I was not prepared for that.  I felt very good through the first three miles, which took us down from McHenry Row; around the Inner Harbor via Key Highway and Pratt Street; then down Wolfe Street toward Fells Point,  and pretty good through mile 4, at which point we had crossed through the Harbor East area and approached the Pier 6 Pavillion.  The heat started to get to me around the 4 mile marker.  The fifth mile, around the Inner Harbor promenade to the Science Center, was the flattest, but without shade and I was dying.  I took one walk break at the fifth mile and another at about 5.5, and made it to the finish in 1:11:04.3, a little over 3 minutes slower than my 6.2 a week before. 

Have I ever mentioned that I don't like running in warm weather?  Note the gross uneven sweat pattern.  Now I'm worried that I have some sort of weird sweating disease.

Considering the heat, I'll take it!  The best part was that my legs felt great, it was the heat and my still getting back in condition that hurt me.  This distance was a stretch for me, so I was really happy with this result.

Race Review
So, despite my frustration with the parking, I think Charm City Run does a very good job with this event every year.  The course is interesting, there are sufficient water stops (mile 2 and mile 4 markers), the finisher celebration is good, and the swag is excellent. 



Men's (navy) and women's (aqua?) Under Armour hoodies.

The weather is a crapshoot in Mid-April ,(it was MUCH cooler the next day) but CCR can't do anything about that. 
 
There is one small thing that maybe they can (pun intended) do something about: light beer.  Look, there's no better beer than free beer, but why is it always low-calorie beers that sponsor these races?  I think a lot of runners "run for beer" and I run so that I can try new and exciting beers, with actual flavor. Beer snob though I am, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the cold Miller Lite tasted damn good on a warm day after a tough race.


Gotta respect the O's can, but get me something with some hops!

That said, I stand by remarks about parking, and I wonder if this race has outgrown its location.  Baltimore area runners should know that Charm City Run has a store on McHenry Row by now.  Maybe it's time this race moved downtown where there are plenty of garages. 

But, even if it doesn't, I'll probably be out on the course running the 5th annual Sole of the City 10K.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Baggage

I'm currently in the process of planning my high school class' 20-year reunion.  I haven't kept in touch with most of my classmates, other than one close friend who I talk or text with several times a week, but it was a good group of people and I have generally good memories of the people in the class of 1995. But still, I have to admit that while I got along with everyone and my class didn't have anyone at all in it that I would say was a bully, the process has still brought back a fair amount of high-school anxiety that I didn't need in my life, particularly now, with my once-mighty hairline several inches receded and my waistline considerably expanded from those actually not-so glorious days.

Although I do think fondly back on my class, the whole process has made me realize just how many grudges and how much resentment I do have going back all they way to high school and beyond.  One of the things I liked about my graduating class, and really treasured about my senior year, was that it was really the only time I remember from first grade through 12th where I felt like I was free from bullying.  I remember one day, driving home from school after senior play practice (in which I had a lead) on a sunny fall day in my fun little car and thinking "life is really good."

In hindsight, even in those other years, I guess nothing that most people would think seemed too bad happened to me.  I got in some fights in middle school, and one of the same kids who picked on me for years in my church's youth group pushed me, without provocation I might add, into a bush in 6th grad and cut my face up quite badly.

But while the physical violence of my youth was pretty minimal, I was constantly mocked for my small stature, a high-pitched and squeaky voice (especially in 9th and 10th grade, when it started to change to its currently slightly less high and squeaky adult pitch and my voice would just crack all the time);, and my relative lack of athleticism.  Those were days in which I had zero self-confidence and I really dreaded going to school every goddamn day.

Back in December, the high-school friend that I still talk to and I went to my school's annual alumni breakfast.  Immediately after RSVPing, we both had second thoughts based on who we might encounter there.  There was only one of my old bullies that I thought might be likely to attend, and I told my friend basically "This guy made 9th and 10th grade hell for me.  If he's there, I have to say something and I'm not going to be able to be civil." I've seen this guy's picture on a FB group page for my high school, and I admit I looked him up.  He's gained a lot more weight than I have, but some of mine is muscle.  I think I could take him now, if it came to that.   I have to admit, I think part of me even hoped he would be there, because I was going to really make him feel like shit about how he acted back then. Back in high school, I wanted nothing more than revenge, and 19 years later, that still sounded great. 

Of course, he wasn't there, and my friend and I had a perfectly pleasant and uneventful breakfast at a table by ourselves in the school gym.

But I've thought about my less happy school days over the past few months as I've been planning the reunion, and I really can't think of why those days haunt me so.  

A few nights ago, during a bout with insomnia, I realized that while I have DESPISED these guys for over 20 years, they wouldn't even remember me -- not a chance -- and that every time I thought of one of them, I was still giving them power over me.  That went for the guys who picked on me every day in high school, the person I mentioned above in elementary school and later church youth group, the boss from my first job right out of college who set my career back with an undeservedly negative review (I know that this sounds like sour grapes.  I assure you that it is not, but this post is already too long for that story.) and a list of others too numerous to describe.

It also became apparent that there's just no reason for these grudges, anymore.  Life is good.  I have a wonderful wife.  I have a great job, or at least a job that I'm great at.  My family and friends love me. Cats are drawn to me for some reason.  I'm not the same person I was back then, and maybe my tormentors are not, either.

I decided, finally, after 20+ years in some of these cases, to forgive, and to let go of all my old anger.  And I felt ten pounds lighter the next morning. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Where I am Still Reluctant to Call it a Comeback...

But this is the best run I have had since 2012.  I ran the whole 10k (by myself...not a race) and felt great.

I don't know what it is, but over the last few weeks I have started to believe in myself again as a runner in a way I have not in a long time.  It started with my good runs in Virginia Beach and continued with some four-milers here and Manchester and the five-miler that Chris and I ran last week. 

And today...I am very thankful for today's run.  I don't think I have run this far since hurting myself at Spartan Race in mid-2012. 

I have felt good before and good stretches of running and my compartment syndrome symptoms would come back. They may again, but I am going to enjoy every mile while I can.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

If it Ain't Broke, Don't 21 Day Fix it. (But, Boy, is it Ever Broke.)

I've both talked about my need to lose weight in the past here, and also detailed a kind of sleazy approach the Beachbody company made to me, where they wanted me to write about one of their products, but weren't going to provide me with the opportunity to try it, first.

At any rate, with the need to lose weight now continuing to exist with no real focus or progress on that front, I'm now trying, along with my wife, Beachbody's 21 Day Fix program.   In short, it is a set of 30-minute workouts, one of which is to be done each day, along with a set of various-sized colored plastic food containers corresponding to different food groups, along with specifications for how many of each color container a person gets each day (which varies by weight).  For example, I might get 6 red containers a day; it doesn't matter what red-coded food item I put into that container, it's just portion size and ratios of "containers" that's important.



If it sounds confusing, it is a little, and I'm lucky to have my wife acting as the brains of operation, although she says most of the challenge is that she's mapping out recipes for two people with different allowances.

Supposedly, you can lose 10-15 pounds over the 21 days, and I do know people that have.  It sounds like a crash diet, and I was a little skeptical of that.  For us, the intent is more that we'll run multiple cycles to lose the weight we need to and maintain that weight while getting examples of healthy, well-portioned meals, and adding some things to the exercise routine, not that it's going to be a 21-day miracle diet, although I do think it is marketed that way or as a way to quickly get back on track.

So far, the results have been good.  I was 163.4 when we started, which is near the low end of my weight fluctuations over the past 2 years, and one week later I had lost 5 pounds.  That included a Saturday night where we went out for some beers with friends and Easter Sunday dinner with my family where I had two helpings of bacon, egg, and cheese casserole (It was really good, Mom!), a Belgian Waffle, and more bacon than I should have.

We have room to improve on the workouts.  Tuesday's leg workout was punishing.  Thursday was Cardio.  I missed Wednesday because I got home very late from the office, and then we didn't do Friday (both exhausted), Saturday or Sunday (just ran out of time between social obligations), or yesterday (I worked till well after 8:00).  We can do better, but we did run 5-miles on Saturday and I am trying to get back into a regular lifting routine.

As far as the challenges, it seems like it's too much at once, in a way, regarding exercise.  I'm trying to get back into long distance training, and I'm trying to start lifting again, and then at the same time there's these new daily workouts.  I'd like to do them because they will help me be better runner, even if in the short term it's a struggle.

As far as eating...

The dinners have been great.  We've had:

1. Crock-pot Turkey Meatloaf, 1/2 potato (butter and salty condiments ARE missed), and veggies.
2. Flat-out (flat bread similar to tortillas) pizzas -- delicious but since the toppings soak through its' not really "pizza".
3. Nachos -- would have been good but we burned the tortillas that get baked to make the chips. 

For lunch I've had turkey or tuna pitas, sometimes with lettuce.  Cheese or ketchup would be welcome; my big portion of ricotta did help today's turkey pita, even though it's not really a classic sandwich cheese. 

Breakfast has been eggs with veggies and/or mushrooms in them, sometimes with a piece of bread with (a small amount of) peanut butter on it, and half a banana.  It varies because you look at amounts of each container over the course of a day, not meal-by-meal.

Almost all the food we've eaten under the diet has been great, there's just a few places I'm struggling:
1. No ketchup (or condiments that I would use).  I've been eating a lot of eggs for breakfast, and without ketchup, it's very bland.
2. Very little cheese, normally.  In combination with #1, this is a disaster.  Sandwiches are dry and bland and lunch has been a struggle.  Today, though, I got to put an insane amount of Ricotta on a sandwich (Ricotta is in a different category than most cheeses).  Sometimes it just doesn't seem logical.
3. Coffee.  Sorry, diet.  I need to put Sweet 'N' Low and milk in my coffee.  That's not negotiable for me.

We have to make this do-able for us.  We will probably give ourselves one day a week (usually Saturday), where we will go out for dinner and have a beer or two and not worry about it, but if I am good 6 or 6.5 out of 7 days, that is a lot better than I have been doing!

It's too early for me to say whether I'd recommend the program or not, but the early results seem good, and I will update further here. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Operation Change of Pace

"I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide."
 -- Gandalf the White

"There's always a reason to quote 'Lord of the Rings'."
 -- Brian

For most of my running career, I've been an approximately 10:00 minute-mile runner.  I was usually faster on race day (except the marathon, of course), but this was usually the pace I was usually training at.  I haven't been that fast since my surgery.  I've only gotten two miles under 20 minutes once, and I think I managed one under-30 minute 3 miler.  That's ok.  What's not ok is that I don't seem to be able to consistently replicate my pre-injury attempts at this pace.  Even though I'm not hitting my old speeds, just trying to run at what seems like my natural pace seems to be a recipe for compartment syndrome pain.

Meanwhile, my wife has racked up distance running achievements far exceeding my own: eight half marathons (her ninth is this Sunday) following this past weekend's Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I've noticed that when I run with her, I feel ok.  She trains at an approximately 12-minute mile pace and also incorporates a one-minute walk breaks every half mile as per an adaptation of one of Jeff Galloway's plans.  In both the Kelly Shamrock 5K in Baltimore two weeks ago and the Shamrock 8K in Virginia Beach, both distances I hadn't been able to hit in the past two month without pain, I ran with Chris, followed her plan, and felt great.  I also ran 4 miles on Monday by myself in Virginia Beach at a 5mph (12-minute mile) pace and felt very good.

The sample sizes are pretty small:  The Sole of the City 10K last year, which I really had no business running; the Kids' Peace Orioles 5K in November 2013, and the aforementioned 5K, 10K, and 4-miler are all post-injury races that I ran with Chris or using her run/walk plan, albeit in varying degrees of fitness and preparation by be me, without any compartment syndrome problems.  Those aren't the only races I felt good in.  I felt good at Rocky Run 10K and Celtic 5-miler last year.  But what about all the training runs where my shins and calves burned or where I couldn't move my foot?  I can't handle every run being a roll of the dice.

Between weather, illness, and my legs feeling like crap, I haven't gone more than 2 miles since February.  On Saturday and Monday, I ran 5 and 4 miles respectively, and felt better than I have since November.  Could it be that my injury is less aggravated at that pace (or that there is something about my stride that is different?).  I recall, when I had my bout of ITBS in 2011, that there was an optimal speed at which to run to reduce symptoms (unfortunately, it was faster than I could go!  I will try to look up that article and update the post, by the way).  Maybe a change of pace can help this injury as well.

I think it's something to try, and my laboratory will be training for and running the Wild Half Marathon in May.  If I can get through the training miles and finish a half marathon without compartment syndrome symptoms, then I'll feel like I'm back in the long-distance game.  If I can't, it's probably time to admit that anything longer than a 10K is out of reach, and focus on shorter races and/or find new hobbies.

The motivation is back. I'm feeling better mentally and have been more focused.  I just have have to be able to get the miles in.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The End for Now

There's a lot that I wanted to say in this blog post that I realized that I shouldn't put on the Internet.  In short, I've had a lot of struggles this month in my running and I have found every excuse to not get out on the roads:  Too tired, too busy, too icy, some problems with my foot that I'm pretty sure are my fault.  The long and short of it is that I just don't have the motivation to get out there and train hard enough to run half marathons or even think about longer races.

I'm deferring to the 8K at Virginia Beach.  There's just no way I can possibly be in half marathon shape by March 22, for a variety of reasons that are almost all my fault.  I am going to try to train for the Wild Half Marathon in May in Wildwood, NJ.  But beyond that, I don't know.  Right now, it just doesn't seem like running is something I enjoy anymore.  I've just completely lost my motivation.  It goes beyond running, but this is just a running blog. 

My lack of motivation to write this blog has probably been obvious to anyone still that still reads it, with declining entries each year, reflecting fewer and fewer miles.  What's the point of a blog w less than 2 entries per month?  I really do thank you for reading it, though.  I appreciate all the comments, and encouragement, and support over the past 4+ years.  If at some point in the future I'm feeling a passion for running again, Earn Your Donuts might possibly be back, too.

Thanks and best wishes.

-Brian








Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A New Year, But More of the Same

Running Year 2014 neither started nor ended on a really good note for me.  I struggled with my injuries again early in the year  and finally had the surgery. After a rehab that was longer and tougher than I thought (but still probably not bad compared to other surgeries), I started running again, starting from the beginning with the Couch to 5K plan.

It's been a mix of good and bad results.  I think my progress had been a little slower than I thought, and I know that I had let myself get more out-of-shape than I thought, too.  In November, things seemed to take a turn for the better.  I ran a good 5K with no walk breaks t the Kid's Peace Trick or Trot in Baltimore, and then and even better (compared to current expectations, not my PRs back in my "prime") 10K at at the Rocky Run.  I started running four milers in Manchester, and I could feel myself getting stronger.  And then...

On December 8th, I went out for a five-mile run, hoping to get one five-miler in before the Celtic Solstice race that Saturday.  At about 2.5 miles, my calves were tight and sore, and I made the strategic decision to take a shortcut back to my car.  I hit the three mile mark and began to walk, and I realized from the dead feeling in my legs and the lack of full range of motion in my left ankle due to the swelling, I was having the compartment syndrome symptoms again.

I rested all week, and did a lot of stretching, and felt much better for the Celtic Solstice 5-miler.  I'm not sure I got another run in that week, but the next Saturday (Dec 20), I did 5 miles on the rail trail in which my compartment syndrome was ok, but my right knee was very sore.  I think it's my IT band, and I know I've managed that before with stretching and exercises.  I was not terribly concerned.  Knee pain also limited me to two miles on December 23.

Then, the bad one.  The next time I went out to run was the Saturday after Christmas.  My plan was a 2.5-mile out and back on the rail trail north from Hanover Junction.  I was struggling on the "out" part, and should have known to turn back well before 2.5 miles, because by that point my compartment syndrome symptoms were in full swing, and it was a long walk back to my car.

What the hell?  I've lost most of the last three years of running with this problem, had surgery, and it seemed like I'm no closer to having under control than I was at the end of 2011, and I just don't know why I'm ok -- or mostly ok -- sometimes and then other times I'm in pain after just a mile or two.

I need to find the pattern, and isolate what factors will make a difference, because I just can't let every run be a roll of the dice.  If the specter of compartment syndrome pain hangs over every run, there's no way I can dream of half-marathons and marathons again.

Part of me thinks it's just time I accept that.  Even if I ONLY run distances of two or three miles, it's still good exercise.  I like 5Ks.  I could still probably run them, although usually on my bad compartment syndrome pain runs, it sets in before three miles.

I'm not ready for that, though.  I want to unlock the formula for controlling this, and find out what separates the good symptom runs from the bad.

The first variables I'm playing with are hydration and diet.

I enjoy alcohol in moderation, but when a Christmas party left a huge surplus of beer, I started having a single drink on nights of the week on which I normally would not imbibe at all.  The first run in which my compartment syndrome symptoms flared up was two nights after that party, in which I had several drinks and ate lots of salty foods.  I was probably super dehydrated.  The second bad one, on December 27, was the morning after a friend had had dinner with us the night before.  I didn't drink to excess, but I had more than I would normally have the night before a long run.

In response, I'm drastically cutting back on alcohol consumption.  Since most of my long runs are on Saturday, that means no beer during the week or on Friday night.  It also means I have to really make an effort to drink more water.  I have gout, and I know dehydration is a big trigger for that.  Could that be a contributor for this?

I'm also changing my diet to include more things that are thought to be natural anti-inflammatories. In general, I'm trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, including cherries.

Lots of stretching is also essential.

I set out for my run on Saturday morning, with my legs aching and a heavy heart.  I felt like this run was really important.  If I felt ok, I could go on.  If I felt badly, then it was another data point that pointed back to square one.  I got a reprieve, when sleet and freezing rain started just as I was about to run.

Chris and I did a lot of work clearing out one of our storage rooms, and then we went out and met some friends for drinks.  I was careful to mix in a few glasses of water, too.

Sunday morning, with my legs feeling better as I left the house I ran four miles with a sore knee and no hint of compartment syndrome.  My feeling of relief was huge, but I know that I shouldn't get too high over a single good run, just like you were probably thinking I was getting too low over 2 bad runs in December.

I'm going to continue the changes I made to diet and alcohol consumption, and I also want to implement the following:

1. Make sure I don't just sit around all day.  This is tough because I sit around all day at work.  I need to make sure that in the morning or at lunch, I make some time to walk on the treadmill or go for a short run.  I felt like being up and around on Saturday helped my legs feel better than they had that morning.

2. More commitment to core and leg strength training.  I'm good at doing this when I'm in PT, and I'm good at doing some exercises (squats and calf raises) after I run.  I think I was not doing enough, though.  Not only did I in general run less in December, with so much holiday stuff going on, but that also meant I was missing out on strength training.  I'm sure with running less, and doing these exercises less, my legs got weak again. 

3. Make sure I get my mid-week runs in, even if they're only 2 miles.  In December, I basically ran once a week.  That's not a recipe for success.  I need to make sure I get them in the mornings, because running at lunch is a non-starter.  There are many times (today being one) where I planned to run at lunch and then got too busy to take that full hour for stretching, driving to where I run (my house is just not a safe running area), running, doing post-run stretching, and coming back.  I should have just gone up and run at the park closer to home.  It's hilly, and I'm not ready for that now, but closer distance to my house will make this easier to do in the morning or (maybe) at lunch.

Hopefully, I can manage this because I really don't like the idea that I had surgery for nothing or the thoughts of throwing more surgery at this particular injury or losing another year of long runs.


In this picture, I'm sitting on a park bench and trying to raise my toes to stretch.  The left foot doesn't have the same raise of motion when the symptoms are active.